Hundreds of local residents back Liberal Democrat campaign for safe crossing on North Hill

North Hill petition: Cllr Rachel Allison, Lynne Featherstone MP and local resident Jenny BouchamiHighgate Liberal Democrats and MP Lynne Featherstone have this week sent in a petition to Haringey Council signed by over 400 local residents backing a campaign to improve safety at a dangerous pedestrian crossing.

The campaign to get a pedestrian traffic light on the North Hill crossing, located next to the Highgate Group practice and close to the Mary Feilding’s Guild, has been running since the spring, and has proven exceptionally successful. Almost one in 20 Highgate residents have signed the petition.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“It’s fantastic that the campaign has picked up such speed and has got the backing of over 400 local residents.

“Now the council will have to sit up and take notice- and do something to deal with this clearly dangerous crossing on one of Highgate’s busiest roads, right next to the old people’s home and the only GP practice in Highgate.”

Highgate Councillor Rachel Allison adds:

“Some of Highgate’s most vulnerable residents use the crossing on a daily basis. It should not be too much to ask for to them to feel safe crossing this road- and I certainly hope Haringey Council will agree!”

What developers do in Highgate

Stomped around three developments in Highgate with the top team from Haringey planning department earlier today. After weeks of correspondence and rows – today’s walkabout perhaps clarified a few things – but not anything that should make anyone feel happy. For it would seem that unless a developer adds another floor / administers monstrous harm in terms of impact on neighbours – there is very little that Haringey can do that will deal with developers who given an inch take a mile.

Having looked at one development in Sheldon Avenue which looms large over its neighbours – the height the house has been built to is definitely not the height that they expected from the planning permission – or width or depth for that matter. On close examination – and with use of a scale – you might just detect that the proposed house would be higher but the earlier streetscapes show that the proposed house has the same height of eaves as the next door neighbour. I don’t know – but it seems that Haringey didn’t intervene when first called to see the increase in footprint, then didn’t act on other bits and pieces notified to them and now say that the ‘harmful impact’ isn’t great enough to win any appeal that the developer would make if they enforced.

Game, set and match to developer. Albeit they have issued a formal warning and are going to ask this particularly developer to come in for a ‘chat’. That might help for future – but not for the current situation there.

We, Cllr Rachel Alison and myself, will be asking for a range of actions to be taken – one of which will be to ask that Haringey get height specifications on proper drawings. Any decent architect would put on their drawing – do not scale off of this. I am not sure whether there is any liability on Haringey or not – but we will be enquiring further. Otherwise – I can’t see what there is to stop any developer expanding on plans regardless of planning permission. Of course, the officers are right in that the developer can always apply retrospectively for permission – but I think the harm is done because local residents expect Haringey to have a duty of care to ensure that what gets permission is that which gets built – and nothing more!

Petition to improve safety on North Hill, Highgate

Lynne Featherstone crossing North Hill with Highgate councillors Bob Hare and Rachel Allison plus local pensionersHighgate’s three councilors (Rachel Allison, Bob Hare and Neil Williams) are campaigning to improve safety for pedestrians wanting to cross North Hill near Church Road.

Pensioners from the Mary Fielding Guild joined them and myself for a photo op to highlight the problems and launch the campaign a few days back and we’ve now got an online petition too – I hope you’ll sign it to help the campaign.

As Rachel put it, “At present there is little time for pedestrians to cross safely. This is a route to school and directly opposite a popular doctor’s surgery. It’s clear we need a proper pedestrian crossing.”

Spurs Foundation

Visited Spurs Foundation yesterday with Lib Dem colleagues: councillors Robert Gorrie, David Winskill and Rachel Alison, plus David Schmitz who is our prospective parliamentary candidate for Tottenham.

We were looking at the work the foundation is doing in terms of encouraging learning, sports opportunities for children with disabilities, and generally discussing how and what needed doing in terms of integration between the west and east of Haringey.

Spurs have moved a long, long way since the days when they were totally resistant to putting back anything into the local community and over the last several years have come on in leaps and bounds with 65 projects now running in Haringey and Enfield (and a couple in Waltham Forrest).

So – nice to establish closer relationship between Spurs and the Lib Dem council group so that we can work together to ensure that Spurs doesn’t only hear Labour voices in future.

Why I cried yesterday

Yesterday went to launch the sports day for the Hornsey Trust for Children with Cerebral Palsy. This is one of the only places in the whole of London where from the age of six months parents can take their child to a conductive education school. This is the method that started in the Petto Institute – at the time highly controversial, but which delivers results.

And you know – can you imagine what it is like? You give birth – with all the hope in your heart that nothing is wrong – and then you are told that your child has cerebral palsy. A new world that you never wanted to take part in lies in front of you. What does it mean? Where can I get help? What will my child be capable of? So many questions and so many battles ahead.

When you become the parent of a child with disabilities – you will spend so much of your time researching and fighting to get what your child needs. Of course – it should be there – but it it often isn’t.

Many parents come to me because they cannot get Haringey (or whatever local authority) to fund their child’s education or care. And when the policy is mainstreaming – there is a great resistance to special facilities.

That is now beginning to change – as the consequences of the policy have become clear – that in some cases mainstreaming is appropriate; in some cases it isn’t and in some cases half the week in each is the best solution.

Anyway – back to sports day. Three groups of children up to the age of seven with about six or seven children in each group were doing races. The first group were mobile with a variety of help – of walking frames or without – and they went around a simple obstacle course. The conductive method seems to work off intense one to one encouragement and help to urge the child to take the next move. It is a kind of patterning – but I am no expert. At the finish lines, siblings, parents and relatives rejoice – and the little ones faces full of beams. The point is that they have achieved!

The next group less mobile – but in a short distance to a finishing tape – they crawled using their elbows or whatever – each with a helper urging them on each and every step. And the last group even less mobile – literally encouraged to roll to the finish line.

It is intense and it must be exhausting for the trainers – but the children from all the groups absolutely loved it. And the effort and the love in that room meant that tears rolled down my face continually. Don’t get me wrong – no-one else cried – they were all happy. But I cried because the achievement was huge and the road so hard and the bravery and the love so strong.

And I spoke to quite a few of the parents – and the struggle they have had to get the funding to have their child here rather than where their local authority wanted the child to go. For parents here – they have seen what this method can achieve. The normal method puts them in a wheelchair and the parents feel condemns them to a very limited life. I met one parent of a girl who had not been able to walk – now she walks. For some the improvements are small by ‘normal’ standards – but they are all about improving quality of life and maximising what each child can do – and as a parent that is what you want.

It isn’t just cerebral palsy. Readers of my blog will see only a week or so ago I visited the mother of a young girl who couldn’t get a power wheelchair from Haringey who seem to operate a one chair fits all policy.

And there are many others – but I don’t want to post here as they are private matters brought to me – but they are on the same line. The parent fights and the authorities (whether medical, council or other) all seem to make the already horrendously difficult road more difficult, more bleak and more hopeless.

Three cheers for all the parents at Hornsey Trust and all the children – and the wonderful staff!

Then it was Highgate Fair – happily the horrible rain and drizzle of the morning has dried up for this Highgate celebration. Lots of stalls and people and children all milling around and seeing what’s to eat, what’s to buy and what’s to join. My Lib Dem councillor colleagues – Neil Williams, Rachel Alison and Bob Hare have a stall too. The big event for me here is the launch of the Highgate Shopping Bag! I purchase one immediately. My only problem now is that I have the Crouch End Shopping Bag and the Highgate Shopping bag (and I have a designer given to me by my daughter last Christmas) and Marks bags that you buy to shop there. So two things – is it de trop to use the wrong bag in the wrong area? (Jokes!) And come on Muswell Hill – you can’t be left behind! Join in and soon!

Ten most popular blog postings (1st quarter, 2008)

End of another quarter – so it’s time for another top ten list. Here are the blog postings which have proved most popular with readers of my blog in the last three months:

10. The interesting case of Seb Green – the admirable way someone has reacted when things go wrong.

9. I’m the bride – at last! – blogging prize, not wedding bells. But nearly as exciting.

8. One of my favourite topics for blog postings – about winning an election! This time Rachel Allison was the much deserving winner in the Highgate by-election.

7. I’ve blogged quite extensively over the last three months about the scandals surrounding Ken Livingstone and the funding of projects in London – so no great surprise that this posting about Ethnic Mutual’s grant made it into the top ten.

6. Low Copy Number DNA – one of those postings which keeps on getting traffic as, each time there’s a crime involving DNA records, people go hunting on the internet for more about this technique.

5. Mr Speaker doesn’t speak for me – I disagree with the Speaker’s decision to try to keep things secret.

4. Lots of online coverage for me first steps using Twitter.

3. A (then) Conservative councillor calls for sterilisation of people whose lifestyles he doesn’t agree with – An appalling insult to mothers and fathers.

2. Our sexist monarchy: why in the modern world should men still be able to elbow aside women in the line of succession to the Throne?

1. And in at number one: Brian Paddick comes calling. Somewhat surprised to see this at number one as it wasn’t the most interesting or exciting posting – at least in my eyes!

(Click to see the previous top tens).